By ANGELA INGRAM, WKRC
EAST PRICE HILL, Ohio (CIRCA via WKRC) — Felicia Smith and her husband own three Akitas: Hannah and her puppies Butterscotch and Kelsey.
Last Saturday, the family was frantic when two of the dogs got loose.
Smith said, “I was coming home and my husband called me and said, 'Well, Hannah and Butterscotch got out of the fence,' and I’m like, 'Oh my God. What happened?'”
Smith and her husband split up and drove around the neighborhood looking for their dogs. She was driving along Rosemont Avenue when she flagged down officer Alex Saulsbury.
“I was like, 'Excuse me, officer, have you seen two dogs?'“
Saulsbury had not seen the dogs and drove off, but he had license plate readers on his vehicle capturing Smith’s data.
.@CincyPD uses high-tech crimefighting tool to reunite two missing dogs with their owners. License plate readers or LPRs are on 18 CPD cruisers. Coming up on @Local12 News at 6, find out how the tool helped bring home the missing Akitas. pic.twitter.com/oSuZHRqTzU— Angela Ingram (@NewsLaw1) February 15, 2019
“This car has two on it. The one I drive has three," he said. "It’s like having two other officers with two other computers in your car."
Call it a fluke or a blessing, but Butterscotch and Hannah ended up in front of Heather Whitten‘s home.
“I got out of my car, and there were these two beautiful dogs. They were right outside my vehicle,” Whitten said.
Whitten took in the dogs and posted on social media to find the owners. Not only does she own an Akita herself, but she also runs the License Plate Reader Program for the Cincinnati Police Department and other departments in the region.
“It captures an image of the license plate, converts it to text, and then it’ll let the officers like officer Saulsbury know if they’ve passed a vehicle with a wanted person,” Whitten said. “It’s been used in rape cases, homicide cases, stolen vehicles, kidnappings, you name it.“
Officers do have to verify information that they collect from the LPR cameras to make sure that the system has not made a mistake and that it is, in fact, accurate information. Later that evening, Saulsbury saw Whitten‘s post about the missing dogs.
He remembered passing Smith and took the time to go back through the LPR storage and found her address.
Smith said, “I was like, 'That’s amazing!' I was like, 'Oh my God. How did he do that?'”
Just like that, Whitten and Saulsbury reunited the Smith family with their dogs. This time, the LPR system was not used to solve a crime, but to help citizens who were desperate to see their pets again.
“I know my connection with my dogs. They’re not just dogs. They are part of your family," Saulsbury said.
Smith said, “I don’t even know who the lady is, but thank you for getting our Akitas safely and the officer, I really thank him because he didn’t have to do that.”
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